In 1984 I was studying at Hebrew University and I traveled to the Gaza Strip. I was shocked at the living conditions and the poverty I was exposed to. Reading Matt Rees’ mystery A GRAVE IN GAZA brought back memories of that visit. Rees presents the second installment of his Omar Yussef mysteries. Instead of the byzantine politics of the West Bank, we are presented with a similar environment in Gaza, but it seems deadlier. The dichotomy of Palestinian culture with its emphasis on family values and caring for others is juxtaposed to the villainous nature of politics in the Gaza Strip. As in his first book Rees blends contemporary movements ranging from rival “security” factions, the smuggling of weapons into Gaza from tunnels dug under its border with Egypt, the role of the United Nations, and of course the corrupt nature of Palestinian politics.
The story itself reflects the goodness of certain characters, but it also reflects the sadness of what life has become in Gaza since 1948. People’s lives are at the mercy of political factions and they do not have much control over their daily lives. Though Israel no longer physically occupies Gaza, the rule of Hamas which interestingly Rees does not really delve into much, and the ever present fear an incident that will spark another Israeli retaliatory strike or invasion is on everyone’s mind. If you enjoy a good mystery with numerous twists and turns carried out by a politically “unsophisticated” main character, who lets on much less than he is aware of, then A GRAVE IN GAZA will be a satisfactory read.